We had a kind of “false spring” last week here in Southern California. The sun came out for a few days, and we soaked it in like sponges. All kinds of spring plants began to bloom, causing a surge in pollen (and making me sneeze nonstop). I didn’t care too much, I was happy that the warm weather had finally arrived. I thought it would stay. Alas, like a cruel temptress, spring has disappeared, leaving us with at least another week of winter and another storm on the way. I’m thankful for the rain, our farmers need it. But I sure do miss the sun.
Inspired by our brief encounter with spring, I developed this Roasted Asparagus, Avocado and Arugula Salad. It’s like spring on a plate. I considered calling it a “Triple A” salad– Asparagus, Avocado, and Arugula– but settled on naming it descriptively rather than artistically. Full disclosure here: I’ve never been a big fan of arugula. The flavor is too peppery for me. I much prefer spring greens. But the arugula at the farmer’s market looked so fresh, so crisp, that I couldn’t resist. Many people love this delicate green, and it looks so pretty and spring-like on the plate. I decided to challenge myself to find a way to make that peppery flavor work in a salad. To start, I added some of my favorite ingredients– oven roasted asparagus, toasted pine nuts, and who can go wrong with ripe avocado? Then I dressed it all with a slightly sweet citrus-basil dressing. The light, simple dressing magically mellows the peppery flavor of the arugula, bringing together the other ingredients in perfect harmony.
This recipe is kosher for Passover, my favorite springtime celebration. It would make an elegant appetizer or side salad for your Seder menu. I gave some make-ahead tips in the recipe below. Make sure you use larger stalks of asparagus for this salad, they will roast up beautifully sweet and tender. Don’t skip the roasting, it adds another dimension of flavor and it’s most definitely worth the extra effort.
I ate three servings of this salad as I watched the clouds roll in. Yes, winter is back for a few more days, but spring is alive and well in my kitchen.
- 1 bunch (about 1 lb) asparagus (choose thicker, larger stalks if possible)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Salt and pepper
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
- 1 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 tsp honey or agave nectar
- 1 ripe avocado
- 4 cups arugula (about 5 oz.)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. After you clean your asparagus, make sure to pat it totally dry before proceeding. Slice the tough stalk ends from your asparagus (1-2 inches at the bottom of each stalk).
- Place the asparagus on a baking sheet; I foil line my sheet for easier cleanup. Drizzle the stalks with 1 tbsp olive oil, then rub each stalk with your hands to evenly coat with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper—freshly ground black pepper is best. Place prepared asparagus into the oven and let it roast for 12-15 minutes till the toughest parts of the stalks are tender and the leafy tips are starting to get crispy.
- While the asparagus is cooking, place the pine nuts into a small skillet over medium heat and toast them for a few minutes till they turn golden brown and aromatic. Be careful, stir constantly, and keep a close eye once they start to brown—they can go from brown to burned very quickly. Once they’ve turned golden, pour them into a small bowl and reserve.
- When the asparagus has finished cooking, remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Cut each stalk into 4-5 pieces each. Discard any overly tough ends that did not get tender during roasting.
- In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, 1 tbsp lemon juice, basil, honey and a pinch of salt. Vegans can sub agave for the honey in the dressing, or leave it out. As you whisk the mixture rapidly, very slowly drizzle in the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil till emulsified with the juice mixture. Reserve dressing.
- Cut the avocado into small cubes. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ tbsp lemon juice to keep it from turning brown.
- In a large salad bowl, combine the arugula, roasted asparagus, toasted pine nuts, avocado and dressing. Toss gently till the ingredients are well mixed and the arugula is evenly moistened by the dressing. Season the salad with additional salt to taste, if desired. Serve.
- This salad is easily doubled for a crowd, and can be partially made ahead for easier serving. Roast the asparagus and toast the pine nuts in advance, and juice the citrus for the dressing, then store in airtight containers till ready to serve (refrigerate the asparagus and juices for up to 24 hours before serving). Just before serving, slice the avocado, whisk the dressing and toss the salad. It tastes best at room temperature, so if you’re making some elements ahead, be sure to take them out of the refrigerator and let them return to room temp before tossing the salad.
More Great Recipes
La Fuji Mama – Avocado, Endive, Pistachio Salad
Cooking on the Weekends – Asparagus-Parmesan Salad
Leite’s Culinaria – Arugula, Fennel and Orange Salad
Recipe Girl – Arugula, White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Salad